Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms      

Psalm 102 – Change and the Unchangeable One

 

By I Gordon 

 

Introduction

 

We have before us today an interesting Psalm. That’s not to say the others we have been looking at weren’t interesting. Okay, they are all interesting. But this one is a little different in that with a casual reading there isn’t anything that would yell out to you saying ‘Hey - I’m Messianic!’ And yet with the right key you can turn the lock and find some fascinating two way conversations within the Godhead that you didn’t know existed! As I read through it I was mainly drawn to the last part of the Psalm which speaks of change and the unchangeable One... so we’ll focus more on that, but let’s read the first part to get some context.

 

One lonely man...

 

Psalms 102:1-11  A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you.  (2)  Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.  (3)  For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.  (4)  My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.  (5)  Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.  (6)  I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.  (7)  I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.  (8)  All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse.  (9)  For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears  (10)  because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.  (11)  My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. 

 

We don’t know the author of this Psalm. People have speculated that it is David but we don’t know for sure. The title for this Psalm sets the scene for us however: ‘A prayer of an afflicted man who is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord.’ From that we could say that this Psalm is possibly, just possibly, not going to be read at too many weddings. We see early on that this man is struggling. He feels like his days are vanishing and his life is withering like grass. He is completely dry and running on empty. Maybe you have been there? Maybe you are there? He is crying out to the Lord but is wondering if the Lord is even listening. There certainly isn’t any instant response coming from the heavens as God is silent. This isn’t an uncommon event for we used to have a fridge magnet that said ‘I believe in the sun when it does not shine, I believe in God when He is silent.’ That is true and should be remembered. But this man, at this stage, sees only clouds. They are too thick, too dark. His vision is blocked from seeing the heavens.

 

There are several comparisons made in this first section to describe how he feels. How many times have you found yourself saying ‘I feel like a pelican of the wilderness’ or ‘Oh I am so like an owl in the ruins’? Well, ok, maybe not the analogy you like to use, but you can probably relate to the feeling of isolation and loneliness the psalmist had. The Amplified Bible helps us a bit here expanding on the thought saying:

 

Psalms 102:6-7  I am like a melancholy pelican or vulture of the wilderness; I am like a [desolate] owl of the waste places.  (7)  I am sleepless and lie awake [mourning], like a bereaved sparrow alone on the housetop.

 

You don’t see a lot of sparrows who are single or have got no buddies. They are a very social little bird. I have a couple of sparrows that have made their home in my home. They come and make their nest to have their babies each year. And I normally see them in the mornings sitting on the gutter of my roof above the porch, surveying their little kingdom. They are normally up before me… which isn’t hard. But I don’t think they realize that they have made their home in my home. I don’t think it has entered into their little bird brain that they are actually building a little nest inside someone else’s far bigger nest. The scale of my house would be far beyond their wildest dreams! I think we can miss God for the same reason. He is too big for us. Compared to God we are the little bird brain. And that is being kind to us. The work that He does even in our lives has a grand eternal scope and plan. We normally operate with a day to day focus of just trying to get through the next issue. He works with eternity in mind to conform us into the image of His Son so that we can have eternal treasures in Heaven. We miss Him because our focus is far too narrow. This man in our psalm is like that. He can’t see the woods for the trees. He is focused very much on the smaller issues that are pressing in upon him and has lost sight of the big picture… but then it comes…revelation!

 

The clouds recede and the light shines through

 

(12)  But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.  (13)  You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.  (14)  For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 

 

Suddenly, in the midst of the Psalm, there is a change. There is a parting of the clouds and the light shines through. Revelation comes and he is able to see and focus on the bigger eternal picture. Let’s explore briefly what helped him by looking at parts of what he said:

 

 

The future is filled with hope!

 

(15)  The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.  (16)  For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.  (17)  He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.  (18)  Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:  (19)  The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth,  (20)  to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death."  (21)  So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem  (22)  when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD. 

 

We see here that the man in this Psalm is able to take courage and hope, even lifting himself into the bliss of the coming day when the Lord will appear, the nations will all fear the Lord and the kings of the earth will see the glory of God! He is gaining an eternal perspective! I devoted the last message entirely to what this will be like so I won’t concentrate on this too much here. But please note verse 16. In the KJV and the Amplified Bible it reads a little differently saying: Psalms 102:16  When the Lord builds up Zion, He will appear in His glory. This verse is seen by many Bible prophecy teachers as another clue as to when the Lord will return. This verse links together the building up of Zion with the glorious appearing of the Lord. For nearly 2000 years the Israelites were scattered into all the nations of the world and didn’t have a nation of their own. But this generation has seen the nation of Israel come into existence once again and the city of Jerusalem once again come under the control (mostly!) of the Jewish people. Note also that the Psalmist said that what is being written is not for his time but is for a future generation and for a people not yet created. I believe we are that people which will see the return of the Lord! In that day ‘the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem.’

 

Who is speaking to whom?

 

(23)  In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.  (24)  So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.  (25)  In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  (26)  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.  (27)  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.  (28)  The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."

 

This part of the Psalm is pretty obvious and straight forward. The Psalmist cries out to God not to let him die and expresses his confidence in the eternal, unchangeable nature of God. Right? Well, actually, no. Here is where this Psalm takes on a little twist and gets even more interesting. The writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that this isn’t the Psalmist just writing down his thoughts about God. That is how we have been looking at it so far but it is far from the full story! The Psalmist is actually recording a conversation between God and Father and His Son. Let’s have a look because that statement requires proof!

 

What the Father says about the Son

 

Hebrews 1:1-14  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  (2)  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  (3)  The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  (4)  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  (5)  For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father" ? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son" ?  (6)  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."  (7)  In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire."  (8)  But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  (9)  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."  (10)  He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  (11)  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  (12)  You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."  (13)  To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" ?  (14)  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

 

The writer of Hebrews was writing to Hebrews, fellow Jews, and one of his main aims is to show how much ‘better’ Jesus is. He is better than Moses, better than the prophets; He has brought in a better covenant based on better promises. And, as he discusses in the first chapter, He is better than the angels. To prove this he gives a series of quotes, nearly all from the Psalms, where God the Father is speaking of, or to, His Son. Verse 9 is an interesting case where God the Father calls Jesus, His Son, God! Now in verses 10-12 the writer of Hebrews quotes from the Psalm we are looking at (Psalm 102) and says that it is actually God the Father speaking to His Son. This is the key we’ve been looking for!

 

So it turns out that this ‘man’ in Psalm 102 that is struggling and crying out to God isn’t just any man. It is the Lord Jesus[3]. He is the One feeling the extreme loneliness. He is the One wondering if God is listening. He is the One facing death. He is the One with enemies surrounding Him and His name being cursed. He is the One taking comfort in the hope of God and the thoughts of eternity and the things to come. And that is why Jesus can relate to us, and why we can relate to Him. He went through everything and more that we are faced with.

 

Hebrews 5:7-8  During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  (8)  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.

Hebrews 2:18  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.

 

So let’s return to our Psalm and use this key to unlock it.

 

The Lord Jesus was encouraged by the Father

 

Psalms 102:23-24  In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.  (24)  So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.

 

We are listening to the prayer of the Lord Jesus here. We don’t know exactly where this was given but it is likely to have been in the garden of Gethsemane or from the cross. He was the One whose strength was broken and cut off in the midst of His days. Other famous prophecies use this same term:

 

Daniel 9:26  ‘…the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing…’
Isaiah 53:8  By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

 

But listen again as the Father replies and encourages Him as Jesus is facing death:

 

Psalms 102:25-28  In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  (26)  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.  (27)  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.  (28)  The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."

You will see here that the Father turned Jesus’ focus onto the things of eternity – both eternity past and eternity future.


It is difficult, but not impossible, for us to see the same things. The word of God helps us to refocus in such verses as this:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  ‘…we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (17)  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (18)  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’

 

Change, change, change

 

When I first read this Psalm it was verses 26 and 27 that most stood out to me the most. It mentions that everything will change. People have said the only constant in this world is change. But change itself is not a constant - it is accelerating.

 

 

The Prophet Daniel spoke of change in terms of the explosion in knowledge and travel. Concerning travel someone said:

"My great-grandfather rode a horse, but was afraid of the train. My grandfather rode on a train, but was afraid of a car. My father rode in a car, but was afraid of an airplane. I ride in an airplane, but I’m afraid of a horse."

 

But it’s not just change in terms of the effects of technology. Morality is changing. Black is being called white and white black. Christianity is changing as large parts of ‘Christendom’ follow the current flavor and thoughts of the world. World powers, and with them key alliances in the world, are also changing. And there have been many voices within Christianity sensing and speaking of dramatic changes that are coming. Joel Rosenberg (end of June 2015): ‘I feel a tremendous sense of urgency about this column. The United States is hurtling towards severe trouble, and the events of the past few months — and what may be coming over the next few months — grieves me a great deal. Something is coming. I don’t know what. But we all must be ready in every possible way.’[4]

 

What comes out of all this we just watch, wait and see. Eventually, everything will change as our scripture indicates. Jesus Christ created both the heavens and the earth but even they groan and wearing out like an old garment. This is in accordance with the Newton’s 2nd law of thermodynamics – entropy - that systems and matter go from order to disorder over time. The universe is constantly getting more disorderly[5]. And we’re not just talking about your house or bedroom!

 

So I understand why some greenies hug trees. If your only hope is in this planet then you would cling to what you have. But a Christian’s hope is far, far greater! In the midst of all this change that is happening, and will happen, how good is it to know some things, or rather someone, never changes - Jesus Christ! Malachi 3:6 For I, the LORD, do not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! He doesn’t have a bad day or wake up grumpy. He doesn’t ever need counseling or correction from a friend to put him back on the right track. He is never confused, anxious or fretting over what to do. He is not forgetful (apart from when He chooses not to remember our sins!) and never loses track of what is happening in the world or in the life of the least of His children.[6]

 

Conclusion

 

The man we spoke about earlier, Mitchell Heisman, who took his own life, was an ardent evolutionist. He was a great supporter of science and thought that would give him the answers he needed. He didn’t want God and ended up leaving a suicide ‘book’ speaking of the hopelessness of humanity despite the rise of technology.

 

Even the author of the Psalm we have been looking at was really struggling. But he had a difference. He came to his senses, lifted his eyes, and said ‘But you O Lord are enthroned forever…’ He was able to lift his head and see things again from God’s perspective. He was also able to see, and hope, in God’s faithfulness and plan still to come: ‘You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come. 

 

In fact we have seen that even Jesus needed to be encouraged by the Father for verses 25-28, as we have seen from the book of Hebrews, are actually what the Father said to the Son. How much more do we need to allow Him to speak to us? And if we are experiencing change currently, or face difficult change in the future, let us still look up and give thanks that we are heirs of that which cannot be shaken. The last generation before the return of the Lord will see incredible change. It will be change for the worse before it is change for the better. But thank the Lord that Jesus doesn’t change!



[1] Nobel Prize winning physicist and Atheist Steven Weinberg famously remarked “The more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” That is true if you take God out of the picture. But everything has meaning with Him in it!

 

[2] Andrew Murray went through a difficult time of trial and wrote this in his journal concerning what to remind himself: “First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.  Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.  Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.  Last, in His good time He can bring me out again–how and when He knows.  Let me say I am here….by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time!”

 

[3] For your own further study, the Believers Bible Commentary lays out the following speakers for Psalm 102 saying:

‘The key to understanding this Psalm lies in detecting the change in speakers.

Vv. 1-11   The Lord Jesus, hanging on the cross, is speaking to God.

Vv. 12-15   The Father replies to His beloved Son; we know this by comparing verse 12 with Heb_1:8.

Vv. 16-22   The speaker is unidentified, but we are safe in assuming that it is the Holy Spirit, describing the future restoration of Israel under the Messiah.

Vv. 23, 24a   The Savior is heard once more as He suffers at the hands of God for our sins.

Vv. 24b-28   Again by comparing this section with Heb_1:10-12, we know that the Father is speaking to His Son.’
 

[4] Many have pointed to September 2015 and the immediate period after that as a time to watch. Obviously if you are reading this well after September 2015 and everything turned out ok… then oops! We don’t know whether anything will happen but we watch as instructed and as of July/August 2015 as I am writing, here are some things to watch in Sep 15. The following are some points taken from the following website: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-economic-collapse-blog-has-issued-a-red-alert-for-the-last-six-months-of-2015

September 13th – This is Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar – the last day of the Shemitah year.  Many are concerned about this date because we have seen giant stock market crashes on the last day of the previous two Shemitah cycles. On September 17th, 2001 (which was Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar), we witnessed the greatest one day stock market crash in U.S. history up until that time.  The Dow plummeted 684 points, and it was a record that held for exactly seven years until the end of the next Shemitah cycle. On September 29th, 2008 (which was also Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar), the Dow fell by an astounding 777 points, which still today remains the greatest one day stock market crash of all time.

September 15th – The 70th session of the UN General Assembly begins on this date.  It is being reported that France plans to introduce a resolution which would give formal UN Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state.  Up until now, the United States has always been the one blocking such a resolution, but Barack Obama is indicating that things may be much different this time around.

September 25th to September 27th – The United Nations is going to launch a brand new sustainable development agenda for the entire planet.  Some have called this “Agenda 21 on steroids”.  But this new agenda is not just about the environment.  It also includes provisions regarding economics, agriculture, education and gender equality.  On September 25th, the Pope will travel to New York to give a major speech kicking off the UN conference where this new agenda will be unveiled. Even in June he was speaking about global governance as the headlines said ‘Pope Francis Calls For A New Global Political Authority To Save Humanity.’

September 28th – This is the date for the last of the four blood moons that fall on Biblical festival dates during 2014 and 2015.  This blood moon falls on the very first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, it will be a “supermoon”, and it will actually be visible in the city of Jerusalem.  There are many that dismiss the blood moon phenomenon, but we have seen similar patterns before.  For example, a similar pattern of eclipses happened just before and just after the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

 

[5] The rotation of the earth is slowing; the magnetic field of the earth is decaying. Erosion constantly wears down the features of the earth. Our bodies wear out; we die and decay to a pile of dust. Our houses, our machines wear out and are finally abandoned and replaced… Each star, including our own sun, is constantly burning up billions of tons of fuel every second. Eventually, every star in the universe, unless God intervenes (which we are certain He will), will exhaust its fuel and become dark and cold.’ (http://www.icr.org/article/modern-scientific-discoveries-verify-scriptures/)

 

[6] Someone has said:

If you want to be distressed - look within. If you want to be defeated - look back.

If you want to be distracted - look around. If you want to be dismayed - look ahead.

If you want to be delivered - look up!